Gathering for a good Christmas
• Gatherings are what make Christmas so joyous
Christmas is a season like none other, and central to its celebrations is gathering. From near and far, down the street and around the world, we gather as family, friends, and neighbours to sing and to make memories, to share love and gifts, to warm ourselves in the sweet glow of the season. It’s as if all the sights and sounds, the wonder and awe, are designed to draw us closer together.
These gatherings are what make Christmas so joyous. But for some, this is a difficult and tender time. Some loved ones are missing from Christmas gatherings for the first time; some are not able to leave their home or travel; others are separated from loved ones by long miles or strained relations, by broken hearts or painful memories. But the promise of Christmas is that sorrow can be turned to joy, and sadness can give way to gladness.
Always there is hope; hope that we will reunite with loved ones, so cherished and missed; hope for an opportunity to start rebuilding a relationship; hope that this Christmas will mark the dawning of new life and new prospects. Two thousand years ago, a new star appeared in the heavens, signalling a glorious birth, a new beginning, a radiant hope. No star ever shone so brightly. No birth ever changed the world so much. No simple gathering of parent and child was ever so glorious, so promising.
At this festive time of year, we go to great lengths to make sure that we have a happy Christmas. Family traditions take on special meaning as we prepare favourite foods, light candles, hang ornaments on the Christmas tree, and sing the carols of the season. We do all this because we want to have a “good” Christmas. But how do we really judge the quality of our celebration?
We might consider the cost and number of gifts we give or receive. We could compare our elaborate decorations with those of our neighbours. Is our Nativity scene larger than the one down the street? Does our Christmas tree have more lights?
Or maybe we could judge the quality of our Christmas by things that are harder to measure but more important. Do our friends and family feel remembered, included, and cared about? Are gifts lovingly given without exceeding the spending limits on the credit card? Is the focus only on fun or on the real meaning of the season?
Successful holidays are determined not by the size and expense of the production but by the little things that may even go unnoticed, the light in the eyes of a child as he wraps a homemade present, the smile and laughter of one who is often lonely, the joy of lovingly serving someone in need. When the material gifts are worn out and forgotten, the memories of love and the feelings of joy will still be cherished.
He whose birth we celebrate never asked for much in the way of material things. He spent His life giving gifts of life and love to all who would receive them. The first Christmas was a relatively quiet celebration with a modest guest list. It was heralded with a message of peace, love, and “good tidings of great joy … to all people” (Luke 2:10). And that was certainly a good Christmas.
This season, may our hearts be open to the possibilities that gathering with loved ones affords. May we be sensitive to the loneliness of others and look for ways to expand our circles. May we feel the joy and hope of a good Christmas gathering.
Merry Christmas to all our cherished readers.
By Samuel Enos Eghan